As New Year’s approaches, it’s common to think about new possibilities. Many of us know that it would be helpful to have a guide, coach, & mentor through this process, but we don’t quite know what to look for.
Here’s a framework to help you find the right match!
An integrated therapist has the yin & yang of therapeutic presence & therapeutic authority.
Therapeutic presence is loosely defined as the capacity to be receptive, attentive, emotionally available, nonjudgemental, & resonant with your unfolding experience (Geller and Greenberg. 2012).
Therapeutically present therapists are understanding, open-minded, & comfortable with a range of different feelings & perspectives. You feel a sense of safety, trust, & warmth in their company. The space seems to open up with them.
This disarming quality makes it easy for you to explore new subplots and turns of your story. You will even find yourself surprised at how much you are saying and learning about yourself in just the telling itself.
This is a crucial quality for your new therapist, & you will know it instantly. Trust your intuition here-this one’s based on a gut reaction!
Therapists who practice this kind of presence don’t have to know immediately & aren’t bothered by the ambiguity & complexity of what they are hearing. In fact, they will allow you to lead & be in the driver’s seat so that you can show them the territory first, & in so doing, instruct them on how to best be of service.
The Zen Buddhists would say these therapists have ‘beginner’s mind’, a flexible and creative capacity to be open to new as yet unimagined possibilities.
You definitely want your therapist to have this quality because it is the foundation for new insights and growth! This openness allows all of us to take more risks in therapy, to deepen the exploration of our thoughts & feelings, & to get to truly enjoy the deeper waters of the psyche, even providing modeling for us to be more open with the various sides of ourselves & in our relationships too!
Many great therapists have the above qualities, but this is not enough on its own!
In addition to openness & receptivity, it’s so important that a therapist be discerning & knows how to move us someplace different and creative.
Therapeutic authority, the yang side of the equation, is the confidence to help us organize, make sense of, and put the pieces of our story together for new movement and momentum. This is where the therapist uses his or her theory, techniques, & experience to help you do something new & interesting with what you are presenting, how you can become more creative in how you approach it.
So many clients say therapists can be fantastic listeners, but they don’t feel like they get enough feedback or wisdom from their therapists. They don’t know what to do with their challenges or struggles and don’t know how to transform them!
The therapist with therapeutic authority is happy to help you blaze a new trail, & will empower you to work on sorting through the various aspects of your experience to find bigger patterns, & new possibilities. Like an artist mentoring a new student, they can see the bigger & smaller picture & can help you with the difficult passages entailed in putting new skills together.
Most importantly, the therapist with a balanced dose of therapeutic authority knows how to do this with appropriate timing, tact, & empathy. They are not going to break you down like a military sergeant, but instead are going to be thoughtfully discriminating & help you to penetrate deeper into your problems & their implied solutions.
It is common to find a therapist who has one or the other side more developed. This is natural, however, it is very important to be able to make sure these are not too out of balance.
It is crucial to get the best of both worlds, a therapist who is able to integrate these complementary facets! By doing so, the therapist has what I call a healthy therapeutic voice.
Why is this so important to you? If a therapist has their voice, they will be well-poised to help you develop and refine your own voice.
This is the essence of therapy itself, finding a creative engagement, integration, & balancing of these complementary sides– the yin and yang–which makes life such a joy and adventure!
Hope this helps you zero in on the therapist that’s right for you.
Here’s to a wonderful new year of growth and possibility!